The Evolution of Marketing to the LGBTQ+ Community

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Gregory Wright, Vice President of Content Development at the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), will lead the kick-off sessions at the ANA's Multicultural Marketing and Diversity Conference October 24-26 in San Diego, CA. Greg spoke with colleague Gena Casciano, Senior Director, to share how marketing to the LGBTQ+ consumer has changed over the years.

Gena Casciano: You're launching the ANA's LGBTQ+ practice at the ANA Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference. What can we expect to learn during the sessions?

Greg Wright: We're going to look at how advertisers are participating in the LGBTQ+ community, including representation in creative and community support. We'll address some of the issues raised by the LGBTQ+ community, including rainbow-washing, lack of authenticity and how the industry can support the community better. We're focusing the first day of the conference on LGBTQ+ inclusive marketing, so it will be a great opportunity for marketers to learn from brands that are connecting with the community and to hear from the community on how we can improve.

Casciano: Why has multicultural marketing become a necessity vs. a luxury for brands?

Wright: I've never viewed multicultural marketing as a luxury. As a millennial, multicultural marketing has always been a necessary part of any strategy. Marketing exists to grow business and any successful business needs to continually attract consumers. Brands are leaving out a huge segment of potential consumers by not adopting a multicultural marketing strategy. One can build a business by focusing on a target demographic, but to continue to grow that business one has to look outside that initial audience. Additionally, brands should expand their approach to multicultural marketing to increase the diversity and appeal of all their campaigns. Nothing is more impactful than when you can see yourself represented as part of the whole.

Casciano: How has multicultural marketing evolved over the years?

Wright: Marketing is in a state of constant change. And the best marketing adapts quickly to that change. That has never been truer than with multicultural marketing. A driving force of that change recently has been consumer habits. Today's consumers want authenticity from their brands and an alignment on intrinsic values. That can be daunting for a brand that hasn't connected with a multicultural audience or a specific demographic before. No one wants to get it wrong, but one can reduce risk by ensuring a diverse team is behind the campaign. Ultimately, today's multicultural marketing requires forming a bond with the consumer and supporting their community, authentically. We have to earn a consumer's trust and loyalty.

Casciano: The acronym LGBTQ+ covers many identities within the community. When brands represent the LGBTQ+ community, how can they do so well and properly?

Wright: Just as marketing continues to evolve, so does our understanding of the LGBTQ+ community. For a long time, the LGBTQ+ community was ostracized, so we are only just starting to see the breadth of the community as it becomes safer for us to live as our true selves. However, much of the community still faces violence and discrimination in the U.S. and around the world. An understanding of where the community is today and diverse team perspectives can help guide a brand down the proper way of representing the LGBTQ+ community. Having members of the LGBTQ+ community on your team (and ensuring they feel comfortable to be themselves) can be a great way to ensure authenticity as well. But it's also important to remember that the LGBTQ+ community is one of the most diverse. LGBTQ+ doesn't just span sexual orientations, it spans ethnicities, genders, interests, professions, geographies, and more. Overall, intent matters and today's consumers are keen to it. In addition to what's previously been mentioned, brands should be careful not to fall into LGBTQ+ stereotypes; avoid rainbow-washing; support the community and non-profits; show support outside of just pride month; and ensure your brand and company are in alignment on that support.

Casciano: How has the adoption of multiculturalism informed today's marketing?

Wright: Multiculturalism has played an increasingly important role in marketing, especially as creating meaningful connections with consumers, and telling an emotional story has become more important. Multiculturalism has led to a better understanding of consumers, which has led to better creative. Understanding how to include various communities and cultures, as well as their stories, will lead to authentic consumer connections.

Casciano: Finally, how does a fully realized DE&I program benefit and improve a marketing team's effectiveness?

Wright: Increasing team diversity should be paramount for everyone. Including different perspectives and experiences on your team will lead to better performing marketing campaigns and a better work environment. But this requires taking the time to step outside one's comfort zone, be proactive in the hiring process, work with HR to ensure blind resume reviews, and promote open positions outside of the usual places. And sometimes you have to be the one to drive these changes, no matter what position you hold in your company.

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